I didn’t really want to spend too much effort on this Marvel journey ranting and raving, but the truth is last night was the first time I’d actually sat and rewatched 2008’s The Incredible Hulk in its entirety. I confess most of my response is mild surprise I enjoyed this when it came out!
Much of the reviews at the time and in hindsight point out that this movie was largely an attempt to not be Ang Lee’s Hulk movie from earlier in the decade, and movie which is generally panned, although personally I feel at least contained some real heart.
The first problem I’ll raise with Incredible Hulk is performance wise, it just feels incredibly flat and reigned in. I actually love Norton as an actor, but in watching this film one just has this sense of of him taking the role far too seriously – if you contrast his performance with RDJ as iron man, who brought a sense of fun and energy to to the role, Norton comes across with an almost Office-esque level of ‘acting’ and it just comes off as cheesy. Liv Tyler as Betty Ross and Tim Roth (again awesome actors) seem to just grimace through their lines as if they aren’t too sure whats actually happening in each scene.
The second problem is a weird one that I notice in such films. An odd catch-22 between character motivation and audience. The problem with many Hulk stories is that typically Bruce and others don’t want to unleash the Hulk, yet as audiences that’s pretty much exactly what we want. It’s not the end of a story when a MC has an opposing goal to the audience, but it has to be played out carefully. The main motivation of Bruce in this film is to escape the military and cure his ‘condition’ which makes perfect logical sense but hurts the plot in two ways, its not what we want to see for the Hulk, and it’s incredibly predictable that circumstances will fall in a way that does release the Hulk but to save the day of course.
The third main problem is that ultimately the Hulk looks terrible. Again I remember watching this in 2008 and just being happy that the Hulk looked less like a helium balloon than in 2003, but in hindsight 2008’s Hulk looks slimy, creepy and too much like he stepped out of a video game (albeit Abomination looks worse, like they bought a Resident Evil monster over). While the action is fairly fluid there are clunky CGI moments that are just painful to watch.
Overall the movie presents as boring. The jokes are incredibly bad – I didn’t mind the Dadish “You won’t like me when I’m Hungry” line as Bruce is still learning Portuguese, however the other gags felt out of place in a script that took itself far too seriously, with lengthy montages of Bruce stumbling around over sad music. I think one of the problems with this film is they were trying to go with the “real” factor that they put a lot of effort into Iron Man, e.g. devoting a lot of time to Tony Stark developing Iron Man to allow for some suspension of disbelief, however ended up just making a rather dry movie about a giant green rage monster…
All I can say is thank goodness for Ruffalo and Avengers’ rehabilitation of the Hulk!